That led to a bigger discussion on how I personally view, prepare for, think about, and shoot portraits in general and I thought I'd share my views with you... you know, in case you actually care! :-| Who knows, maybe it'll give you that push you need to get unstuck from whatever boring crap you may be photographing now (we all get stuck sometimes).
In the end it comes down to three concepts in my approach: confidence, simplicityand personality.
As I was writing up the three elements, I realized that this was turning into a really really long post, so I decided to split it into, yep you guessed it, three parts. In this post, I'll be covering Confidence.
This aspect was really tough for me at the beginning, particularly when asking to photograph strangers (something I still don't do nearly enough!). But I've also found that once you show confidence, you get confidence back in spades. Your own confidence often matters more than your subjects confidence as your confidence can raise theirs, but their confidence will never get you over the hump if you doubt yourself. I think I border on the edge of arrogance at time, but whatever it takes to get the image!
Nothing makes a subject truly show their personality (see below) than when they're confident themselves. Confident you know what you're doing. Confident you're going to make them look hot and natural. To me, confidence came with doing some things well, really well. When I started to see that I could nail a few styles or techniques every single time, the confidence came with it. This also allows you to walk into any session with a couple of ideas (ie styles/techniques) that you can rely on. This keeps you from sitting there with your thumb up your arse wondering, "gee, how should I pose her? What should we do?" Lead with the things you know and let the rest flow. The subject will feel it.
But sometimes you just need to fake it. The above photo of Mariana is a perfect example of how confidence can make or break your images (even when faking it).
I had just started getting into natural light portraiture while using a "nifty fifty" 50mm 1.8 lens because I'd recently fallen in love with Bokeh. So, even without having done it much, I grab Mariana and say "wanna do something awesome?" naturally she gave me the raised-eyebrow-am-I-about-to-file-sexual-harassment-charges look and answered "why?" of course! All I said, "because it's gonna rock!" Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to look awesome. Make them believe you can do it and they will.
I beamed confidence even though I had no f'ing clue what I was doing since I'd never done it. I knew she didn't like being in photos, so it was doubly difficult. I didn't take no for an answer and kept up the "this is going to be awesome" façade and shot away.
I simply chatted and shot, BSed some more and shot,we laughed and smiled for about 5 minutes and came out of it with a series of really relaxed looking photos feeling exactly as I wanted them to feel. The key was that even though I hadn't really shot this style before, I was prepared. I knew what I wanted composition wise and I knew the general settings I would use.. so I was confident in the one thing I knew.. and it came through.
Do not ever let the subject (especially if it's a non-pro) know you're not absolutely certain you know what you're doing.. even if you're faking it.
It all starts with the confidence...